Denial is Preferred Mental Health Therapy in N.Y.'s Chinatown Since September 11th Terrorist Attacks

In 2002–03, the Asian American Federation of New York, a non-profit leadership organization, conducted a mental health needs assessment of Asian American World Trade Center victims' families as well as vulnerable populations in New York City's Chinatown district—namely, children, elders and dislocated workers—to document the mental health status, needs and actual service use following the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

The study also aimed to identify the range of mental health care services available to the community after September 11th. In addition, the study sought to identify existing gaps in mental health service delivery for this community and to develop public policy recommendations to address the unmet needs and service gaps.

Key Findings

  • In a published report, Asian American Mental Health: A Post-September 11th Needs Assessment, the project team reported their findings, including:

    • Victims' family members suffered a wide range of psychological and physical symptoms.
    • No focus group participants reported using mental health services, and many relied on such coping mechanisms as avoidance and self-distraction.
    • While there are a number of mental health initiatives to serve those affected by the September 11th attacks, they have been little used by the Asian American community and suffer from a range of service gaps.

Key Recommendations

  • Asian American Mental Health: A Post-September 11th Needs Assessment included the following recommendations:

    • Develop more culturally competent mental health services and other forms of support for Asian Americans.
    • Create greater awareness of mental health issues and knowledge of bilingual services and resources through expansion of outreach and community education.
    • Increase the availability and accessibility of community mental health programs that address the long-term needs of victims' families.
    • Strengthen the ability of mental health services to assist children, the elderly and families in Chinatown.
    • Expand mental health training and bilingual capabilities of front-line staff for programs serving victims' families and Chinatown populations.